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Syracuse athletics made a lot of money last year

$91.4 million, to be exact.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the usual rush of news around National Signing Day on Wednesday, there was also the release of the Syracuse Orange’s financial data from the 2016-17 athletic season.

Chris Carlson digs into everything over on, so I’d highly recommend looking at that for the full story. However, the major highlights and points of information you’ll be curious about:

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse set a new record for athletic revenue with $91.4 million

And that’s up over $9 million from the previous year. Considering Syracuse did not make it to the Final Four or a bowl game, that’s no small feat. But the ACC’s continued NCAA (men’s) Tournament credits rolling in, plus the MetLife check and ESPN’s early payments on the conference network were all enough to pick up the slack.

If that sounds like a lot of money, well... the Alabama Crimson Tide raked in $174.3 million during the same athletic year. For comparison’s sake, here’s how the rest of the ACC fared in terms of revenue only:

  1. Florida State Seminoles: $144.7 million
  2. Louisville Cardinals: $122.4 million
  3. Clemson Tigers: $104.9 million
  4. Duke Blue Devils: $100.5 million
  5. Virginia Cavaliers: $93 million
  6. Syracuse Orange: $91.4 million
  7. North Carolina Tar Heels: $90.5 million
  8. Miami Hurricanes: $89.1 million
  9. N.C. State Wolfpack: $85.2 million
  10. Pittsburgh Panthers: $84.8 million
  11. Virginia Tech Hokies: $80.8 million
  12. Boston College Eagles: $74.6 million
  13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: $71.4 million
  14. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: $70 million

That’s nice and all, and it’s great to see revenues far out-pacing those of many other universities we may see in “better” standing than us. However, it’s also worth considering that reported revenues around athletics and actual revenues are always questionable. Such is the business of college athletics in general. That’s not singling out Syracuse at all. Just pointing out the nature of the entire business. Which brings us to...

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse athletics spent $71.8 million in 2016-17, down from the previous year

The drop doesn’t really matter. It’s nice to see SU spend less money, I suppose, especially to lesser result. But that does create a perceived surplus, which SU explained as a product of the how financial data is reported. The actual result is a balanced budget, as they explained. Take that for what it is. Most schools conveniently keep a balanced budget, if you peruse this full list. Miraculous so many can do that, wouldn’t you say?

Biggest spenders in their sport

Looking at the list, some Syracuse teams rank among the highest in the country in terms of spending for their respective sports. That’s not good or bad, necessarily. Just interesting. The programs that rank among the top 10:

  • Men’s lacrosse (1st)
  • Women’s lacrosse (1st)
  • Men’s soccer (2nd)
  • Women’s field hockey (2nd)
  • Women’s ice hockey (3rd)
  • Men’s rowing (4th)
  • Men’s basketball (6th)
  • Women’s rowing (6th)
  • Women’s tennis (8th)

That’s clearly a lot. Lacrosse shouldn’t surprise given each respective programs’ success and stature in the sport. And in many of these sports, travel alone can add up pretty quickly. As you probably know, not every Syracuse sport has always found success either. Many of these are new to the idea of annual postseason trips or championships.

Building success takes time and money. So is likely the case for several of these teams — and that could go double for women’s ice hockey, which likely must spend to catch up the program to the level of its peers. Start-up costs are steep in business. And they can be for college sports teams as well.

And football doesn’t spend much, relatively speaking

SU’s 50th in spending, and coincidentally, was around 50th in recruiting for 2018. The data says that the Orange spent about $9 million more on football than men’s basketball. Even with $22 million reported there, it’s still less than half of what FSU spends. That’s not encouraging for long-term competitiveness.

Dino Babers has been pushing for more resources where possible, and those should help raise this number higher. It’s not a completely direct relationship between money spent on football and wins. But it can certainly be helpful.


Interesting? Frustrating? Feel free to pore over the numbers yourself too.